There isn’t much new about “R.B.I. Baseball 19.”
And that’s not a bad thing.
Most sports video games have evolved to a ridiculous level. They feature every detail of every player including obvious things such as their name, height, speed and abilities as well as not-so-obvious things such as their actual mannerisms, posture and wildly specific facial hair.
You can create new players, build your own teams, raise up a player from the minors to the majors.
But not in “R.B.I. Baseball.”
In this game, you play baseball. That’s about it.
And that’s great.
I’m a veteran of the old school of sports games: Turn on the system, pick your team, play. Boom. Done.
“R.B.I. Baseball” is just like those old-school games, and the few modern adjustments it has made — including nice but not flashy graphics — are welcome.
I’m also a veteran of “R.B.I. Baseball,” including the 1988 NES original. I love that game not least of all because my New York Mets are, ahem, the best team in it.
Though coming more than 30 years after the original, this version is strikingly similar in its basic aspects.
Pitching is simple. Every pitcher can throw a fast pitch, regular pitch or slow pitch and then adjust its trajectory right or left. (Over the plate is a strike. Off the plate isn’t.) Subbing a pitcher is as easy as clicking a few buttons.
Batting is similarly simple. Swing or bunt. That’s it. And picking a pinch hitter is just a couple of button presses.
Base-running is also, you guessed it, uncomplicated, with the three bases and home plate being mapped to the buttons on your controller.
Fielding, too, doesn’t have any bells and whistles. Balls in the air drop onto a target on the field. Get your player in the target, and he’ll catch the ball.
This is all welcome when modern games have pitchers with varied pitch selections, the need to warm up in the bullpen, batters with hot and cold zones, lead-offs, sliding into bases, diving for balls, hard throws, soft throws and enough options to turn a baseball game into an exercise in micromanagement.
A few nods to the original game — that classic organ music, fielding errors accompanied by a “bonk” noise — are welcome to longtime fans of the franchise.
Mostly in “R.B.I. Baseball,” you’ll be playing baseball and not worrying about too much else, depending on what game mode you choose.
This version of the game offers only a few game modes: exhibition game (pick two teams and play), home run derby (pick a player and hit as many homers as you can), online play (play friends and random opponents) and season mode (pick a team and lead them through 10 full seasons).
Home run derby is entertaining, and it operates just like the actual Major League Baseball event before the All-Star Game. You pick a player and enter an eight-man single-elimination bracket against friends or the CPU.
The season mode is pretty fun, and it gives a good selection of options.
In other games, you take on a dynasty — operation of the entire franchise including minor league teams, injuries, trades, training and so much more. In “R.B.I. Baseball,” you take on the major league team for 10 seasons to see how many championships you can win. You can even select the length of the season, helpful if you don’t feel like playing all 1,620 games in a decade of seasons. (I went with 52 games, equivalent of one game per series, to keep things shorter.)
You handle trades, and you can certainly change the pitching rotation or batting order if you feel like it. Otherwise, you just play.
You can make things even simpler, turning off injuries and limiting other options that may complicate your fantasy as a major league manager.
Though every MLB team, player and stadium is available in the game with rosters that update as the real-life rosters do, it keeps things pretty light. If you still want things simpler, you can turn on fielding assist mode and make other adjustments (including difficulty of CPU opponents) to suit your needs.
That’s the beauty of “R.B.I. Baseball.” It’s just as complicated as it needs to be.